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Hum Reprod. 2005 Feb;20(2):433-6. Epub 2004 Nov 18.

Elective single embryo transfer (eSET) policy in the first three IVF/ICSI treatment cycles.

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Research Institute of Growth & Development (GROW), University of Maastricht and IVF-Laboratory and Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Academic Hospital Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands.



Elective single embryo transfer (eSET), applied in the first or second IVF cycle in young patients with good quality embryos, has been demonstrated to lower the twin pregnancy rate, while the overall pregnancy rate is not compromised. It is as yet unclear whether eSET could be the preferred transfer policy in all treatment cycles, or that it should be restricted to the first or first two cycles.


eSET policy (when two or more embryos were available, at least one of them being of good quality) was offered to patients younger than 38 years in the first three treatment cycles. Retrospectively, treatment cycle outcome was studied.


In 326 patients, 586 treatment cycles were performed (326 first, 168 second and 92 third treatment cycles). In 65 cycles (11%), eSET could not be applied because there was either no fertilization, or only one embryo available. In the remaining 521 cycles, eSET was performed in 111 cycles (19%), while in 410 cycles, no good quality embryo was available resulting in the transfer of two embryos (double embryo transfer, DET). No significant differences in ongoing pregnancy rates after transfer of fresh embryos were observed between eSET and DET in the first (both 33%), second (36 and 23%, respectively) and third treatment cycles (20 and 24%, respectively). In significantly more eSET cycles compared to DET cycles, could embryos be frozen. This resulted in a significantly higher cumulative pregnancy rate after eSET compared to DET.


In patients younger than 38 years with at least one top quality embryo, eSET can be the transfer policy of choice in at least the first three treatment cycles, since the pregnancy rates obtained in each treatment cycle are comparable to those after DET.

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